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Anupriya Bedi Jul 04 2014

The Real Taste of East India

Debangana Sen Jul 04 2014
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From litti chokha in Bihar to machher jhol in Bengal and dalma in Orissa, the cuisines of east India take you on a delightful culinary journey full of new discoveries and exquisite tastes. In the following list, we bring you some of the known and unknown dishes from the three eastern states of India that are a must try while you are here.



BIHAR

Though a predominantly vegetarian cuisine, Bihari cuisine also incorporates a number of meat and chicken dishes. This cuisine has a characteristic smoky flavour owing to the strong aroma of smoked chillies in most of their dishes.

What should be on your plate?

Litti-Chokha:
The most recognized dish of Bihar, litti is a kind of deep fried flat bread stuffed with a filling of seasoned powdered gram and chopped onions, coriander and green chillies. It is usually served with chokha, a paste made from mashed potatoes and/or brinjals seasoned with coriander and green chillies.

Daal Pitthi: It is a wheat pasta dish cooked with lentils. Khushi Family Restaurant in Gaya is a good place to try out the local flavours.

Pittha: These are rice flour dumplings stuffed with a variety of fillings; these can be both sweet and savoury.

Ghugni: This is a rich and thick gravy-based dish made with black grams.

Bihari Kabab: These are barbecued red meat seasoned with spices and yoghurt. It is usually eaten with the naan bread. Other versions with chicken are also made.



Tash: The Champaran region in Bihar is famous for this dish. Tash is basically a grilled mutton preparation.

Thekua: Also known as khajuria and thikri, this sweet is traditionally offered to the gods during Chhat Puja. It is a sweet snack made with a dough mixture of whole wheat, jaggery and clarified butter, which is deep-fried before serving.

Tilkut: This is also called til burfi. A thick and hard sugar ball is rolled in copious amount of sesame seeds followed by hammering it out to the desired shape and consistency. The ones made in Gaya are especially famous.

Parwal ki Mithai: This is a very unique sweet dish pertaining to the state. Boiled pointed gourds are deseeded and stuffed with a sweetened mixture of solidified condensed milk, nuts and spices.

WEST BENGAL

Known for the delicate balance between the seasoning and the ingredients, the subtle (sometimes fiery) flavours, and of course, the huge spread of desserts and sweetmeats, Bengali cuisine is one of the few traditional multi-course cuisines in the world, where food is usually served course-wise, instead of all at once. Bengali cooking incorporates a variety of dishes and cooking methods which are unique even in India.

What should be on your plate?

Kumro Phuler Bora: These batter-fried flowers of pumpkin are served as an accompaniment to dal (lentil soup).

Potoler Dolma: Pointed gourd stuffed with ground cottage cheese or keema.

Chorchori: This is a traditional Bengali take on the mix vegetable dish. The dish is dry, lightly sweetened and seasoned with specific spices.

Mocha Ghanta:
Another vegetarian delicacy, this is a dish made with finely shredded banana flower cooked with local spices.



Gandharaj Bhetki: A beautiful melt-in-your-mouth preparation of barramundi steaks served in a creamy coconut milk based gravy flavoured with Kaffir limes. Tero Parbon is one of the best places in Kolkata to try out this dish.

Chital Macher Muitha: It is a dish made with fish balls prepared from the deboned back of the chital fish (Indian Featherback) served in a rich and spicy gravy. This is a delicacy in Bengal.

Ilish Macher Paturi: When it comes to this particular cuisine of east India, no list is complete without a mention of the hilsa fish, or as the Bengalis say--“King of All Fishes”. The dish is preparedby marinating steaks of hilsa in a spicy mustard paste; it is then wrapped in a banana leaf and steamed.

Aam Shottor Chutney: Bengali chutneys are sweet and sour, served at the end of the meal as a palate cleanser and also double up as dessert. This particular version is made with dried mango sheets, raisins and dates.

Jhola Gurer Sandesh: These are regular Bengali sandesh filled with liquid jaggery. These are available only during the winters.


ORISSA


Probably the least explored cuisine in India, the cuisine of Orissa is characterized by delicately spiced dishes and relies heavily on seafood preparations. Many popular recipes credited to Bengal find their origin in Orissa.

What should be on your plate?

Gulgula: This is a sweet local snack made withrawa (semolina), wheat flour and jaggery. It is very similar to a mini donut (without the hole).

Buta Dali: Buta dali is a slightly sweet dish made with chana dal (chickpea) seasoned with dry fruits, coconut and mild spices.

Dalma:
This is a wholesome dish made with lentils cooked together with various vegetables.

Kancha Kadali Bara Jhola: This is a mild dish made with seasoned mashed green plantains that are rolled into balls and cooked in a mildly-spiced gravy.



Saakara: Saakara involves cooking vegetables in a sauce of jaggery, unripe tamarind, coconut and spices.

Chhencheda:
This is a popular lightly-spiced dish made with vegetables and fish head.

Chingudi Jhola: This is the Oriya version of the prawn curry. Dalma restaurant in Bhubaneshwar is your best bet to check out the local flavours of Orissa.

Maachha Bihana: This is a dish prepared with deep fried balls made with fish eggs served in a spicy gravy.

Chhenapoda: This is the ultimate cheese dessert from Orissa. It is made with a mixture of kneaded cottage cheese, dry fruits and sugar, which is baked till it hardens and browns.

Enduri Pitha:
This is a unique traditional sweet dish made with a thick batter of ground rice and black gram that is stuffed with a sweetened coconut filling. It is then wrapped in turmeric leaves and steamed.


The cuisines of east India boast of truly delectable dishes that are worth trying out. This is a very small representation of the absolutely delicious dishes one can savour in these eastern states. So here’s to exploring the real taste of eastern India.

Let us know if we have missed out on any important dish. And,as always please like, share and comment below.

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